Beethoven’s Op. 28 piano sonata: the pastoral and the enlightenment




Anderson, Dustin

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This thesis examines Beethoven’s Op. 28 Pastoral Sonata as a musical work that is dominated by the pastoral topic, and, through its use of this topic, refers to certain ideals of the Enlightenment. The first chapter presents an overview of the sonata and its relative neglect by modern musicologists, followed by a brief history of the pastoral topic in music and literature. The second chapter examines, and provides examples of, the pastoral signifiers that occur in the Op. 28 sonata: drone bass, compound meter, subdominant emphasis, simple harmonies, lyrical melodies and the weathered storm. The third chapter summarizes aspects of the Enlightenment that influenced Beethoven, and his use of the pastoral topic to communicate these ideals. The primary arguments put forward are: the Op. 28 Sonata demonstrates aspects of reconciliation between the urban and the rural as a metaphor for the reconciliation between man and God; Beethoven uses dance as symbol of both pastoral and of fraternity in the sonata; and the Enlightenment concept of interconnectedness between all things is reflected in the musical motives and structure of the composition. The thesis concludes by suggesting that the sonata’s message may have been obscured over time because of changes in Beethoven reception history, the gendering of his repertoire, and the shifting perception of what nature signifies as the Romantic Era developed.



Beethoven, Pastoral, Op. 28, Enlightenment, Piano Sonata, Troping, Topic, Signifier, Dance, Aufklärung, Nature, God, Rural, Urban, Rustic